Posts

Petition amendment proves terrorist proscription vs CPP-NPA arbitrary–lawyer

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s amendment to its petition to proscribe revolutionary groups as terrorists is proof that it has a weak case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), a human rights lawyer said.

In a statement, National Union of People’s Lawyer president Edre Olalia said the government’s original petition filed in February 2018 is weak and is merely a move to railroad the legal process.

“[The] amended petition by the government to proscribe the CPP-NPA is proof that the original one was sloppy, shotgun and arbitrary against hundreds of individuals and was designed to harass and threaten them,” Olalia said.

Last January 3, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the amended petition before Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court in Manila.

Six hundred individuals listed as “terrorists” in the original petition have been taken off  but retained CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison; NPA national operations command spokesperson Jorge Madlos; NPA’s Melito Glor Command spokesperson Jaime Padilla, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Negros spokesperson Francisco Fernandez; alleged CPP-Visayas deputy secretary Cleofe Lagtapon; alleged CPP Mindanao Commission secretary Antonio Cabanatan; alleged NPA-Mindanao leader; and alleged NPA-Mindanao operations chief Myrna Sularte.

The amended petition no longer includes United Nations Environment Programme 2018 Champion of the Earth awardee Joan Carling and five Baguio activists like Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding.

Cawiding, former chair of the Tongtongan ti Umili and coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the new petition removes them from immediate danger posed by being labelled as terrorists, but said government spying on non-government organizations remains as a threat to free speech and human rights.

“This is a partial victory, but we cannot let our guard down,” Cawiding said.

She points to the latest red-tagging of ACT and harassment of teachers who are ACT members as proof that the threat against activists and government critics will continue.

“Harassment has been continuous against progressive organizations, like ACT, the delisting of the individuals named in the DOJ proscription does not guarantee the protection of our rights and our safety because the Philippine National Police and Malacañang are justifying their witch hunt in the context of [Duterte’s] Executive Order 70,” Cawiding said.

EO 70, signed last December, directs the creation of a national task force headed by the President and vice-chaired by the National Security Adviser to end local communist armed conflict and pushed for localized peace talks.

The court earlier directed the DOJ to remove the names of Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Concerns and former Baguio councilor Jose Molintas.

Molintas was also a former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).

Corpuz, Carling, Longid and Molintas are former leaders of the militant Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), which Cariño helped establish as an indigenous peoples’ rights group that opposed the Marcos regime.

Current CPA chair Windell Bolinget said strong protests pushed the DOJ to amend its proscription petition.

But he said the threat does not end.

“They wanted the proscription of the CPP and NPA as terrorists by focusing on few names. Once they are proscribed as terrorists, people they suspect, vilify and attack as fronts and supporters will be linked and later considered terrorists. This is the danger,” Bolinget said.

Still dangerous

Olalia said that even with the amendment, the petition remains dangerous to those earlier named.

“[The] present petition remains to be without legal and factual basis and repackaged the old one in order to railroad the legal process. This will in turn violate a slew of individual and collective rights not only for those who remain in the list but many others who are maliciously identified, associated, suspected or labelled,” Olalia said.

IFI Bishop Vermilon Tagalog, chair of the regional coordinating committee of the Ilocos Network for the Environment welcomed the amended DOJ petition but said “the removal of names does not guarantee their safety”.

“The mere existence of the DOJ petition remains a clear threat especially with the insistent communist-tagging of Duterte’s administration of activists and progressive organizations,” Tagalog added.

Tagalog said that the Human Security Act of 2007, the DOJ’s basis for the filing of the proscription petition is not just directed against “terrorists” but also to critics of the government.

“We call on all environmental defenders to remain vigilant and steadfast in the fight against efforts of the administration to impose its tyrannical rule and clamped-down on our democratic rights.” #(Raymund B. Villanueva/ Kodao and Kimberlie Olmaya Ngabit-Quitasol/Northern Dispatch)

Catholic shrine, activist organizations report police, military ‘harassment’

A revered Catholic Church shrine in Parañaque and a building housing activist organizations in Quezon City complained of harassments Thursday, reporting that police officers and suspected military agents are out to further intimidate institutions and organizations critical of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

In an alert, human rights group Karapatan said its national officers and staff members observed increased presence of suspected military and police agents within the vicinity of Erythrina Building in Barangay Central in Quezon City since morning.

The building houses Karapatan, National Union of People’s Lawyers, Kodao Productions and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among other organizations.

Aside from armed men in civilian clothing surrounding the building, a small Philippine Army truck was seen parked nearby.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police officers had been swarming the Baclaran Church compound in Parañaque since Wednesday, forcing a bazaar meant to raise funds for indigenous peoples to suspend operations.

Instead of staying at the church gate, the police reportedly insisted on visiting the clergy’s living quarters because of an alleged bomb threat.

Baclaran Church, formally known as The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, is known to regularly host indigenous peoples who suffer forced evacuation by the military.

The Redemptorist priests administering the shrine has yet to issue a formal statement but has reportedly asked the police to stay outside the church gate.

A police car in front of Erythrina Building. (Photo by Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar/Kodao)

Karapatan blamed the activities on President Duterte’s latest tirade against human rights defenders.

“We are warning government forces – stop harassing rights defenders, lawyers and alternative media practitioners; and do not plant evidence in our offices. We shall make you accountable in different fora in time,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan later reported that suspected military and police agents circling the area have already left as of seven o’clock in the evening.

“We attribute this temporary respite to the vigilance of NUPL lawyers, human rights workers and staff members of Karapatan, Bayan and Kodao Productions, and allied lawyers and members of the media who responded to the call to monitor the increased presence and activity of suspected military agents and police in our offices,” Palabay said.

Karapatan said it will remain vigilant and defiant against any attempt to intimidate and harass their ranks as well as all human rights defenders and communities who bear witness to the Duterte regime’s repressive policies. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Raps filed vs Sagay massacre survivor’s father, police

The mother of the 14-year old survivor of Sagay Massacre last October filed charges against her ex-husband and police officers of Sagay Philippine National Police before the National Prosecution Services of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila, December 4.

In her complaint affidavit, Flor, mother of survivor “Lester” filed psychological violence charges in violation of Section 5 of Republic Act 9262 or the Violence Against Women and Children Act against Vic Pedaso.

Atty. Katherine Panguban, Flor’s lawyer said that her client experienced continuous harassment from Pedaso and wanted to get the custody of their child.

Flor also filed charges versus Sagay City police Chief Insp. Robert Mansueto, SPO1 Julie Ann Diaz, and PO Christine Magpusaw for violating the RA 6710 or the Child abuse Law and violation of the Supreme Court rules on the handling of child witnesses.

Panguban explained that Lester was forcibly taken and interrogated by the police after the massacre when no one is allowed to talk to a child witness unless accompanied by someone he trusts.

The police also wanted Lester to be the primary witness against his fellow survivors.

Atty. Josalee Deinla, spokesperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer hopes that the prosecution will transmit the case to the Court.

Atty. Deinla also said that last November 27 the Sagay Prosecutions Office filed kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges against her client Atty. Panguban but have yet to receive a copy of the compalint. (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

‘Masugid na peoples’ lawyer’

Si Ben Ramos ay isang masugid na people’s lawyer, abogado ng mga magsasaka, abogado ng napakaraming political prisoner. Dahil dito, siya ay pinatay.–Atty. Rey Cortez, Secretary General, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)

Meme by Carlo Francisco

Lawyers condemn killing of colleague in Negros

Members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers held an indignation rally in Quezon City hours after learning that their colleague, Atty Benjamin Ramos–NUPL founding member and Negros Oriental secretary general–was killed in cold blood in Kabankalan City Tuesday night.

The lawyers believed that Ramos’ murder was connected with his involvement with the struggles of poor peasants in his home island. (Video by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

Human rights lawyer killed, groups condemn killings and harassments

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) condemned the killing of one of its officers in Kabankalan City Tuesday night, November 6.

Atty. Benjamin Ramos, secretary general of NUPL-Negros Occidental Chapter died from four gunshot wounds fired by two motorcycle riding men.

“We are shocked, devastated and enraged at the premeditated cold-blooded murder of our colleague and fellow people’s lawyer, Atty. Benjamin Tarug Ramos, our Secretary General for the NUPL Negros Occidental Chapter,” the NUPL said in a statement.

Ramos was taking a break by a store in Barangay 5, near the public plaza of Kabankalan City, 103 kilometers south of the provincial capital Bacolod City, when shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen around 10:20 pm, Clarizza Singson of human rights group Karapatan said, quoting the victim’s wife, Clarissa.

Singson said Ramos was rushed to a hospital but was already dead from four gunshot wounds, three in the front and one in the back.

“Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the two-year administration of President [Rodrigo] Duterte. Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the eigth in the Visayas,” NUPL said.

Ramos was also the lawyer for six young activists accused and arrested of being New People’s Army fighters last year in Mabinay town in neighboring Negros Oriental.

The father of three was also a peasant advocate and had founded the farmers’ organization Paghiliusa Development Group.

“These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions,” the NUPL said.

NUPL said Ramos was earlier “maliciously and irresponsibly tagged” in a public poster by the Philippine National Police as among the so-called personalities of the underground armed movement.

Ramos’ co-counsel for the Sagay massacre victims and survivors, Atty Katherin Panguban, was charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention reportedly filed by Vic Pedaso, biological father of “Lester”, a 14-year old witness-survivor of the Sagay massacre.

Human rights group Karapatan strongly condemned against Panguban, NUPL Women and Children’s Committee Head.

“These charges, which we can only presume to have been wildly concocted by the Negros police and other forces who want to divert the accountability of paramilitary forces and private armies of landlords, have no legal and factual basis, and are ill-intentioned and manufactured. It is lamentable that they have been using Mr. Pedaso to peddle and insist on lies regarding the roles of Atty. Panguban, NUPL and Karapatan in the case,” Karapatan said in a separate statement.

Karapatan said their group and the NUPL merely assisted Lester’s mother in obtaining custody of her child from the Sagay City Social Welfare and Development Office last October 25.

“The turn-over of custody was duly documented and Pedaso was present in the said turn-over, Karapatan said, adding Panguban represented Lester’s mother.

“There is absolutely no truth to allegations of Pedaso and the police that mother and son are being held against their will by Atty. Panguban, NUPL and Karapatan,” the group said.

Karapatan explained that the charges against Atty. Panguban are among the forms of intimidation by state forces against people’s lawyers.

“This incident once again exposes the vile intent of the police to go to great lengths to exploit relatives of victims and survivors and to use them for their slanted narratives,” Karapatan said, adding the charges against Atty. Panguban should be withdrawn or dropped immediately. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Prosecutor drops gun possession charge vs Silva’s companions

Three companions of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva arrested with him last Monday, October 15, were ordered freed Thursday after charges of illegal possession of firearms against them have been dismissed.

Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said that the temporary release of Hedda Calderon, Ireneo Atadero and Edisel Legaspi is allowed pending further investigation of an additional charge against them.

Pastores said that additional charges of illegal possession of explosives were referred for preliminary investigation by Laguna provincial prosecutor Ma. Victoria Dado.

The three were arrested along with Silva and their driver Julio Lusania by combined elements of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

The CIDG said the two .45 caliber handguns, three hand grenades, a claymore mine-type improvised explosive device and assorted ammunition were seized from the five during their arrest.

Silva, however, told Kodao that the guns and explosives were “planted”.

“PILC expects the CIDG-NCR to implement the release soonest possible, in respect of due process and presumption of innocence of all detained, most especially the wrongfully-accused,” Pastores said.

The CIDG, however, still has to abide by the resolution and release the three.

In an Inquirer report, PILC’s Atty. Kristina Conti denied that Silva is part of any destabilization plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, such as the so-called Red October plot the military described by the military.

“This story is laughable but we are not amused,” Conti said.

Conti said the Calderon, Atadero and Legaspi were consulting with Silva who is a leading member of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in its peace process with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Facing multiple murder charges for an alleged massacre in Inopacan, Leyte, Silva was released in August 2016 to enable his participation in the first formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP in Oslo, Norway.

His temporary bail was suspended last January, however, after President Duterte cancelled the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Int’l tribunal on Duterte’s ‘gross violations’ underway in Belgium

An international people’s tribunal goes underway in Brussels, Belgium to hear complaints of human rights violations against the Rodrigo Duterte government.

In a statement, the spokespersons for the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) said they take cognizance of the complaints filed by the victims and experts on the various violations of the rights of the allegedly perpetrated by Duterte of the Philippines and even Donald John Trump of the United States of America.

Based on the complaints, the IPT said Presidents Duterte and Trump are being indicted for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as national sovereignty, development, and International Humanitarian Law.

The Tribunal said it has summoned “defendants” Duterte and Trump on September 10, 2018.

“Unfortunately, we have yet to receive any formal response to the summons,” the IPT said through its spokespersons Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines.

In reply, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters that the government will not respond to the summons, adding the Tribunal is “a sham proceeding” intended “for propaganda purposes.”

“Because that’s not the official proceeding. That’s a propaganda proceeding of the Left,” Roque said.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes, an IPT participant, however said charges being raised before the tribunal are “very real.”

“These are not false charges like the ones government uses against its critics. The process is also fair as the Philippine government was duly notified through the US embassy in Washington,” Reyes said.

He explained the the results of the tribunal shall be transmitted to different international bodies including the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament, the United Nations, and others.

“Rather than disparage the Tribunal, the Duterte regime should listen to the charges raised by the victims,” Reyes said.

(A live video of the proceedings may be viewed here.)

Aside from Reyes, victims of human rights violations, their families, as well as leading activists travelled to Belgium to serve as witnesses and complainants.

They include Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay, Piston’s George San Mateo, Sandugo’s Amirah Alih Lidasan, and others.

Other complainants and witnesses, meanwhile, have submitted video depositions because of their inability to travel to Belgium.

Legal experts from the Philippines and abroad also attended the Tribunal to act as prosecutors and facilitators.

They include former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer president Edre Olalia, as well as peoples’ lawyers Kathy Panguban and Ephraim Cortez.

People’s tribunals on the state of human rights in the Philippines have been held in Europe and United States of America in the past against the Ferdinand Marcos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno Simeon Aquino administrations, all of which found were found guilty.

This year’s IPT is the earliest held against a sitting president, owing mostly to the Duterte government’s two-year drug war that has been reported to have killed more than 20,000 victims.

Although not a formal legal proceeding, people’s tribunal are seen by local and international human rights groups to be important events that highlight grave human rights situations in the Philippines.

The IPT held against Marcos was seen to have contributed to his downfall in 1986 after its informed a great part of the world of his regime’s human rights violations.

The spokespersons said that the IPT panel of Jurors, as in the past, are all “experts and eminent individuals…of proven competence, integrity, probity and objectivity, and experienced on issues on human rights, rights of peoples, and international humanitarian law.”

The IPT said it will hear testimonies and receive evidence from the witnesses for the prosecution and the defense.

“Barring any untoward incident, the Jurors shall deliberate over and deliver the verdict of the Tribunal in the afternoon of September 19, Brussels time (Thursday evening in the Philippines).

“We are well aware of the gravity of the cases and the urgent cry for justice from the victims, survivors and the entire Filipino people. Rest assured that the Tribunal will be fair and just, and will be partial only to the Truth,” the IPT said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers hold rally vs Sereno ouster

Lawyers held a rally in front of the Supreme Court Tuesday to protest the May 11 decision of the majority of its magistrates to oust Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice.

Dissenting with the decision, lawyers led by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Sereno’s ouster through the quo warranto petition is unconstitutional.

In a statement, NUPL said the “erroneous” and “shortcut” petition has far reaching effects as it slays judicial independence.

“Our democracy is in peril. Monopoly of power in the Executive without checks and balance is practically complete,” the NUPL said.

Performance artist Mae Paner dramatizes what lawyers says is the death of judicial independence with the ouster of Ma Lourdes Sereno as chief justice through a quo warranto petition. (Photo by Sarah Jane Mendoza Aguilar/Kodao)

The group earlier said Sereno should have been subjected to an impeachment trial in the Senate as an impeachable official, blaming the Rodrigo Duterte government for the chief magistrate’s ouster.

“Dissent even in traditional forms are shot down. Those who stand in the way of government policy and fancy are waylaid,” NUPL said.

The NUPL said it is its duty to protect the rule of law and has thus decided to organize the nationally coordinated  protest actions.

“Our reason for being is put to question. We are being forced to relearn or unlearn what we studied or taught in law school. The Decision revolts against norms we hold dear,” it said.

Wearing court attires, the lawyers also wore black ribbons as a sign of protest and pleading. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

SC has fallen, lawyers’ group says after Sereno’s ouster

Human rights lawyers said Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s ouster means the Supreme Court (SC) has surrendered its independence to political pressures.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) called the SC decision granting the Quo Warranto petition against Sereno as “deplorable, contemptuous and a contortion of the Constitution.”

Eight SC associate justices voted to grant the Quo Warranto petition Friday morning, saying Sereno became chief magistrate on the basis on an invalid appointment.

Associate Justices Teresita De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr and Alexander Gesmundo voted in the affirmative.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa voted against.

The NUPL however said the decision was dishonorable and is a red carpet for dictatorial rule by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Earlier, the NUPL said the Quo Warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General set “a very dangerous and ruinous precedent that can even be used against any impeachable officer, including other justices of the Supreme Court who go against the wishes of and in the crosshairs of the administration or interest groups.”

In its reaction to the decision Friday, the lawyers’ group said granting the Quo Warranto petition does not affect the Chief Justice alone.

“It primarily affects the entire nation as the Supreme Court literally sprawled the red carpet for dictatorial rule,” the NUPL in a statement said.

The NUPL called on judges and lawyers nationwide to step-up protests against “the breakdown of the so-called rule of law and the erosion of judicial independence.”

The group said it is planning and calling for nationwide simultaneous forms of protest against the SC decision to oust CJ Sereno on Tuesday, May 15.

Possible actions include wearing of black pins or armbands, court hearing holiday, picket at the SC and other courts, and legal fora and press conferences, the group said.

“Today is yet again not another good day to be a lawyer. But we will fight and hold fast. The people we serve deserve no less,” the NUPL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)